It’s Calvinism Free-For-All: Off the Top of Your Head, Part 1

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ADMIN NOTE:  The comments are closed on this thread and a new one has opened here:

It’s Calvinism Free-For-All:  Off the Top of Your Head, Part 2 

The other record-breaking thread is getting really long with comments and so I thought it might be good to let Brian’s new comment have its own thread since it’s on one topic. I’m doing something I’ve never done before. We’re going to let this post be an open post on Calvinism. Many of the people I cover in abuse stories come from either Calvinist or Neo-Calvinist background. That’s not to say there are not abuse issues within Arminian churches (i.e., Calvary Chapel). I’ve mentioned before that I have friends who are Calvinist who certainly are not abusive. In fact, they  defend the oppressed/abused. We have to be careful about those kinds of blanket statements. But there may be some truth to the idea that some doctrines may be a better “breeding” ground for abusive-type leaders.

So, in light of Brian’s comment below, let’s go for it. And okay, I give up . . . go ahead and spell out that “C” word if you want – LOL  🙂

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Ed said: “Don’t call yourself a Calvinist if you don’t support everything about John Calvin.”

Ed, Calvinism and John Calvin are not synonymous, regardless of what you say.

Holding to the tenets of what is commonly called Calvinism does NOT equate to agreeing with everything Calvin did or taught.

I am curious…does anyone on here even know what they are talking about when they use the term “Calvinism”? I’d be interested to see some responses. What is Calvinism? You’ve all been railing against it, so I expect you can describe it without having to look it up. If you have to look it up, then why are you so against something about which you actually do not know the details?

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1,143 thoughts on “It’s Calvinism Free-For-All: Off the Top of Your Head, Part 1”

  1. Sorry, “either embrace nonsense (if it doesn’t make sense, it’s a mystery) or reject reason” is not what I wanted to type. I’m sleepy.

    Let’s make that “either embrace nonsense… or reject truth”. Meaning, one must either accept that God really is more like Molech burning babies in the flames “for his good pleasure”, or Jesus was silly to die for us when God will make everyone love him sooner or later. Or something like that. I have a headache.


  2. Unbelievable.

    So, we’ve gone from having a discussion about differing theologies to making determinations and judgments about whether or not the “other side” consists of people who are truly saved.

    Nice, guys…real nice.


  3. So, we’ve gone from having a discussion about differing theologies to making determinations and judgments about whether or not the “other side” consists of people who are truly saved.

    Nice, guys…real nice.

    Don’t even try to act all innocent when you’ve proven repeatedly that you’re more judgmental than anyone you’re criticizing, Brian.

    Go all the way back through your twitter feed and then come explain to us how you’re not a bigot.


  4. So, we’ve gone from having a discussion about differing theologies to making determinations and judgments about whether or not the “other side” consists of people who are truly saved.

    Nice, guys…real nice.

    I’ve had so many Calvinists tell me I’m an Unbeliever because my doctrine doesn’t match up with their beliefs. Our first meeting on Twitter, you were questioning me about what authority I was submitting to, were you not? What was that all about? Wasn’t that to see if I passed your “true Christian” test? Because if I gave the wrong answer, then what conclusion would you have come to? Be honest, please.


  5. So, we’ve gone from having a discussion about differing theologies to making determinations and judgments about whether or not the “other side” consists of people who are truly saved.

    Nice, guys…real nice.

    What’s “real nice” is how you burn straw men with such ease. What I said was that ***IF*** your god is NOT love, ***THEN*** you do not worship the one true God. So the question for you is, Is your God love? Can your God be described as ‘love’ while he also delights in sending babies to hell for his good pleasure, since they were born sinners by his decree from eternity past and deserve it, though they never lived a day? That’s a question you personally must answer. And it is thus YOU, not anyone else, who decides whether you worship the one true God of love.

    I hope you get this now.


  6. boatrocker observes: “It is this very cognitive dissonance between Calvinist theology and the practical living of the Christian life which has, ironically, led many Calvinists to Universalism.”

    Well, I’m still waiting for some Calvinist, or anybody else who believes in eternal conscious torment, to come along and credibly explain away these verses, taken from ESV, (emphasis mine):

    Romans 5:18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for ALL men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for ALL men. (NASB reads “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life TO all men.”)

    1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall ALL be made alive

    Titus 2:11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for ALL people (Gk., YLT & NASB “TO all men”),

    Romans 3:22b-24 For there is no distinction: for ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Note that, not only have all sinned, but also all are justified)

    Up until now I have thought that the Calvinists, or anybody else arguing for the eternal conscious torment of the damned, must either admit that all are saved or that Scripture contains error. Now, however, Lydia has pointed us to an article ( where Piper appears to be saying, in effect, that God talks out of both sides of His mouth. Then again, I don’t accept Piper as being credible here.


  7. @Gary,

    You might want to start with this:

    I noticed you left out Mat. 25:46– “Then these will go off into eternal punishment, while the righteous will go off into eternal life.” (see also ) What is true for the duration of life is also true for the duration of punishment. These are Jesus’ own words, and you can check the context to see that I have not twisted them. You can also go here to check the Greek:

    Now for your proof-texts:

    Rom. 5:18 — If it means what you say, then Paul contradicted both Jesus and himself when he also said we must be reconciled to God (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Why, if we’ve all already been saved, must we also be reconciled? Either the NT is hoplessly contradictory, or you Universalists have a problem to solve. Now let’s look at that whole passage you cited, not just v. 18–

    Again, the gift is nothing like the failure. In the first case, the verdict pronounced on the one led to condemnation, while in the second, favor came after many blunders and resulted in acquittal. For if death reigned because of one blunder, how much better will be the reign of life through the One— Jesus the Anointed— for those who take hold of God’s overflowing favor and the gift of innocence! Then it follows that just as one blunder brought condemnation to all people, so also one act of justice brought acquittal and life to all people. Through the disobedience of the one person many were brought into a state of failure; likewise, through the obedience of the One, many were brought into a state of innocence.

    See the two things you left out? (1) There is a condition attached to the life of Jesus: taking hold, and (2) Paul also says “many”, not “all”, were brought into a state of innocence.

    Long comment, so I’ll wait for your response before I move on to the next proof-text.


  8. boatrocker,

    Thank you for your prompt response. My immediate purpose in posting some of the universalist proof texts is to demonstrate that some who are so rock sure certain of their own positions aren’t able to apply the same literalist hermeneutic to these Scriptures as they insist they we apply (albeit anachronistically) to their own proof texts.

    That said, while I have not yet embraced the universalist position, neither do I think we should reject it out of hand. I will not be able to find time for a proper response until probably at least this evening, but I would like to take a stab a arguing the universalist position. For now I will just state that, whatever view is being promoted, every piece of the Scriptural puzzle must be assembled in a manner that is comprehensive (every piece used), consistent (every piece fit into a place where it fits), and coherent (even thought many pieces are shaped the same and can bet fit into multiple places, there must be a complete picture, not chaos, when the puzzle is complete).

    By the way, none of the Biblical literalists have so far even come close to as good a response to my proof texts as what you have presented.


  9. “And where there is responsibility, there must also be choice. Therefore, since we are held responsible for either accepting or rejecting God, we must have the free will to so choose. It violates both love and logic to teach that God withholds free will (because he is apparently intimidated by other free beings) yet holds us guilty for being sinners. It is both insane and evil.”

    Well said.


  10. boatrocker,

    Here is a first installment in an attempt to make the case for a version of universalism where all the pieces of the puzzle are assembled in a manner that is comprehensive, consistent and coherent. You are correct to begin with Matthew 25:46. Any argument for any form of universalism must survive this verse. Your blog article addresses the issue whether “punishment” can/should be rendered “rehabilitation,” and whether “eternal” should be rendered “set period of time.” I would like to concentrate on the eternal vs. set period of time issue.

    Taking the verse from ESV, and parenthetically adding Greek notes for “eternal, we get: “And these will go away into eternal (αἰώνιον, aiōnion, adjective, accusative, singular, feminine) punishment, but the righteous into eternal (also αἰώνιον, aiōnion, adjective, accusative, singular, feminine) life.”

    Aiōnion, or αἰώνιος/aiōnios in the nominative (subject) form, is the adjective form of αἰών, aiōn. DBL Greek, as taken from Logos Bible Software, indicates aiōnion (the adjective form) can be translated eternal or since all time. Aiōn (the noun form) can be translated era, universe, world system, long ago, forever, or non-religious people.

    Well, maybe all these different translations for a word that basically just mean “age” are based on some profound understanding of first century common usage, but maybe, just maybe, the translators are actually only inserting their own theological traditions and biases into the “translations.” Young’s Literal gives some support for the possibility of a theologization of the standard translations:

    “And these shall go away to punishment age-during, but the righteous to life age-during.”

    In The Kindgdom New Testament, NT Wright translates “eternal (αἰώνιον, aiōnion) life” as “life of God’s new age” in John 3:16; and as “life of the coming age in John 12:25. Alas, he uses “everlasting punishment” and “everlasting life” in Matthew 25:46.

    On balance, I do not claim to be able to make a definitive case that the Matthew 25 verse absolutely must be translated along the lines of “of the age to come,” as in “punishment of the age to come,” but I submit that the possibility cannot be definitively excluded. The argument for universal salvation, though not in the sense of everybody dying and going to heaven, remains alive and kicking (to my mind) for at least another day.

    I concede that, if punishment is for but an age, so also, it appears, is the life of which Jesus speaks. I am O.K. with that. If the life of the age to come begins now, is consummated at the resurrection of the dead, and lasts but for an age, how much better will it be for those who are His in the age after next!

    I will attempt to get up early enough tomorrow morning to attempt, before going to work, to address the other Scriptures you cite.


  11. Gary,

    Whether an adjective (“ageless”) or noun (“age”), the meaning is “an unknown length of time”. This itself does not tell us whether the time is limited or not; only context can do that. But we should also note that the custom of the culture was to express emphasis sometimes by repeating the word, e.g. “for ages and ages”, as is the case in the Revelation for the fate of the lost. (I use the Liddell/Scott lexicon.)

    But even if one insists that it MUST refer to a limited time, the problem of Mat. 25:46 still remains for Uni. Can “life” be limited in duration in heaven? Only if the answer is “yes” can punishment also be limited in duration. This is the point I had hoped to get across the first time: that whatever meaning you assign to it, it applies identically to both life and punishment. There is no escaping this, even if you render it “the age to come”; how long is that for “life”?

    So it seems that you took the “limited to the next age” approach: not because the Greek requires it, not because the context requires it, and in opposition to common sense and logic (it renders the promise of eternal life meaningless), but purely because Uni requires it. It is the desired limitation of punishment that is driving your interpretations, not the context, the grammar, or the promise. Tacking on an unknown, purely hypothetical “age after the age” JUST to accomodate limited punishment is, in my opinion, sheer desperation.

    Sorry, but I don’t see how Uni solves this one statement by Jesus.


  12. boatrocker

    You cite 2 Cor 5:18-21 in opposition to any form of universalism:

    All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (ESV)

    If universalism can be defended, it must take a form that recognizes the urgency of being reconciled to God. It is much better to, in this life, avail oneself of what was accomplished on our behalf on the Cross than to suffer the consequences of our sin–even if the punishment is made to fit the crime as opposed to somehow having to be eternal (as well as conscious and tormenting) to vindicate the glory of what turns out to be an infinitely narcissistic god.

    One argument that is urged against the universalist position is that there would be no urgency to share the gospel. That, however, is akin to supposing people will be inclined to rob banks because they will eventually be set free, once their prison term is served. Well, no, most of us don’t want to spend a single day behind bars. As an attorney, I can assure you that criminals will gladly accept a plea bargain that enables them to avoid prison time on condition of future good behavior. The required good behavior looks to me to be very similar to the repentance Jesus calls us to.

    That, at least, is how I suppose the universalists could argue the matter. More to follow.


  13. boatrocker,

    This will address Romans 5:15-18 passage, which from ESV, with emphasis added, is:

    15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if MANY died through one man’s trespass, MUCH MORE have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for MANY. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, MUCH MORE will THOSE WHO RECEIVE the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for ALL men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for ALL men.

    Who are the many who died through one man’s trespass? All. Who are the many to whom the grace of God and the free gift much more abounded? Consistency would indicate that the answer is “all.” Who are the “much more” who who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness? Verse 18 specifically says “all men.”

    Why have these verses not usually been received as having an internally consistent meaning? The universalists could say it is because of the faulty, or at least unnecessary, translation of the Greek adjective for age in Matthew 25:46. Universalists could, I suppose, charge that the traditional limitations placed on God’s grace effectively shred that piece of the Scriptural puzzle which is set forth in Romans 5:18.

    Still, the universalist position must take into account the reality of Sheol, Hades, Gehenna (but not the Hell of Dante Alighieri and John Milton), Tartarus, the outer darkness, the Lake of Fire, and the bottomless pit.


  14. boatrocker,

    When you say you would like me to respond further to Mat. 25:46, do you mean with regard to matters raised by you at 3:57 am? If not, what further would you like me to address?

    It will now likely be this evening after work before I come back to this topic. You may or may not see me posting comments in other threads, though not comments that take a lot of time to draft.


  15. Gary, yes. As I said, “Tacking on an unknown, purely hypothetical “age after the age” JUST to accomodate limited punishment is, in my opinion, sheer desperation.” There is zero support for this in scripture, expressed or implied. And if you reserve the right to invent purely hypothetical “ages” since the lack of them completely defeats your argument, then what point is there in continuing? Can I too pull nonexistent entities from a hat?

    I have a response prepared for your other comments, and I will post them, but first I want to pin you down on how you justify this hypothetical “multiple age” theory. So far, it just looks like a cop-out to me, the way Calvinists cry “Mystery!” when they can’t refute something.


  16. boatrocker,

    The point I am making is that the Greek adjective usually translated “eternal” can legitimately be translated along the lines of “of and relating to an age.” I would understand that to be an indication the quality of life and the quality of punishment, not an indication of their duration.

    So, yes, we must decide how best to translate the Greek adjective, and by all means look at the context. I think the universalists would say the entirety of Scripture is the context, including the universalist proof texts I threw out somewhere above.

    You say “But even if one insists that it MUST refer to a limited time, the problem of Mat. 25:46 still remains for Uni. Can “life” be limited in duration in heaven? Only if the answer is “yes” can punishment also be limited in duration.” I am having difficulty following that. If you insist that Life in the age to come must last forever, there is no reason punishment could not be something short of forever. Unless, of course, the translators are correct in using “eternal.” So which is it? “Eternal,” or something along the lines of “of the age to come?”

    So, again, I am not saying I can prove the translation of the Matthew verse one way or the other. I do believe there is room for investigation.


  17. boatrocker, a question:

    Your refer to the expression, ” ‘for ages and ages’, as is the case in the Revelation for the fate of the lost.” Where do you find this? I am aware of this or a similar expression (depending on the translation) being used in reference to “worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” (Rev 14:11), but is there somewhere the expression is used in reference to ALL the lost?


  18. Gary,

    Jesus used the very same adjective to describe both life and punishment. This is why you can’t make one everlasting and the other temporary. Otherwise you’d be engaging in the fallacy of “special pleading”. Whatever is true of one in that context, is true of the other, and it is precisely about duration. The words for “life” and “punishment” describe the quality. These are conclusions the context and grammar force us to. But it seems that now you have attempted “special pleading” in place of hypothetical successive ages.

    And it is good that you did so. Had you persisted in a theory of successive ages, I’d have responded thusly:

    Re. 2 Cor. 5:18-21 (the need to be reconciled):

    The position you appear to be arguing— that the purpose of salvation in this life is to essentially avoid serving prison time— merely moves the line in the sand rather than answering the question. If, as you believe, the next life is but another stage in some non-described and hypothetical (dare I say endless?) journey, your view sounds more and more like the working off of one’s karma in successive lifetimes.

    And just as it is inconsistent for believers in karma to urge good behavior (which would interfere with the payment of negative karma and prolong the “prison term”), so also it is inconsistent for believers in universalism to take the urgency of the gospel as shown in the NT as simply a quicker way to rid oneself of sin. And this, in turn, insults the sacrifice of Christ, who apparently didn’t pay enough.

    In your theology, what difference is there between the unbeliever who lives a good, clean life, and the believer who is backslidden and worldly? Why is it that faith, not works, is what keeps us “out of jail”, if one can live a clean life without faith and have little to nothing to owe in terms of a prison sentence, yet have to go anyway? This is identical to the RCC teaching of Purgatory, and it is incompatible with salvation by grace through faith.

    But the new theory which relies on a fallacy is no better. And there is no point in trying to discuss any Biblical topic when the normal rules of grammar and logic are discarded.


  19. Gary, re. your second question (“I am aware of this or a similar expression (depending on the translation) being used in reference to “worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” (Rev 14:11), but is there somewhere the expression is used in reference to ALL the lost”)–

    This was a very minor point in my comment. The reason I even mentioned it was that it was a common way to convey the idea of eternal or everlasting. Even today we say things like “This debate just went on and on”. That’s all I was saying.


  20. Ok, so I have a question about this tweet. Notice how Michael responds to CON and says, “your love for Christ and his elect.” I’ve seen that before from others. So Calvinists only love the elect?


  21. Julie Anne,

    It is very interesting that you raise the question of election à la John Calvin just when Kelly is commenting on last January’s article on psychopathic/sociopathic pastors. To understand election, and all else having to do with Reformed theology, it is necessary to understand the man John Calvin. If even a fraction of what Calvin’s detractors have written about him is true (see e.g. The Right to Heresy by Stefan Zweig,, the man John Calvin was every bit a psychopath. He demanded and achieved absolute power over the lives and consciences of every citizen of Geneva, accomplishing even the judicial murder, first of Miguel Servetus, and then of his political opponents.

    I am convinced that his small “g” god was and is nothing more than a projection of John Calvin’s psychopathic soul. Just as John Calvin dominated those who followed him, and just as he murdered or otherwise destroyed those who were of no use to him, so also his god, in the name of grace, sovereignly dominates the so-called elect–while consigning those who do not serve his narcissistic, psychopathic/sociopathic purposes to eternal conscious torment.

    Whether John Calvin was or was not actually demonized, I cannot say. However, his god looks every bit like Satan, and not at all like Love. Unfortunately, so much of even non-Reformed “church” has come to emulate the controlling, extremist practices of the Geneva church of John Calvin.

    I am so pleased that you just posted Brenda’s article on the largely misogynistic, but also misanthropic, extremism that is practiced in wide swaths of evangelical “Christianity”:

    And also:


  22. What do you know, I was wondering why I hadn’t seen any of Brian Thornton’s tweets in my twitter feed:


    He blocked me. And I don’t remember any issues between us except for the fact that we had this respectable debate here. Another one to add to the list.


  23. Julie Anne,

    I fear I must disagree with you this time. I do not consider Brian to have been at all respectful. While he avoided the persistent personal attacks of which B4B was guilty, he only wanted to be heard. He vomited scripture without compassion. He wouldn’t answer questions. He wouldn’t engage in an actual conversation. Nothing anybody else had to say was of any value to Brian. It was all about him.

    The Calvinist/Reformed types can no longer burn their enemies at the stake like John Calvin did, but they will do everything else they can to impose their views. They can only win if they can control the conversation. They cannot afford to open their own blogs to to anybody who would challenge their ideas. Every time you get blocked from a Twitter feed it is sure evidence of the bankruptcy of their views. It is an admission of their defeat.

    And what’s this business about being a spy? Is Brian admitting he’s some sort of a stalker? Probably not, but Is he attempting to convey some sort of subliminal message that we had better be careful, that he, Brian, is watching?

    Oh, and finally, notice the woman in Brian’s picture, firmly relegated to the background, to the subordinate position, between Brian and a brick wall.


  24. Gary, when I wrote that, I was thinking that he and I personally did not have a debate with each other wherein he then left abruptly. But, I think your overall assessment is pretty accurate. His original behavior with me on Twitter, the passive aggressive way questions were avoided, etc, yes, you are right, it lacked respect.


  25. Gary – Julie Anne

    Agreed – Brian’s original Twitter comments were NOT nice.
    And he was NOT nice to me – BooHoo 😦

    He refused to post some of my comments on his site.
    I was hoping to get into a conversation with the folks there.

    He was probably just “Protecting” the other sheep.
    Can’t have the sheeple looking at different opinions now – can you?

    Don’t know about Brian – But I sure learned a lot from this thread.

    Thank you Jesus


  26. Hannah,
    I hope you came over here:

    You had said:
    Hmmmm….well if there is no one there to preach the Word says they are without excuse… Romans 1 says he will reveal Himself to them…

    My response:
    Romans 10:13-15

    King James Version (KJV)

    13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.

    14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?

    15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!



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